Amazing, how Elvis Costello can pack more melodies, musical styles and lyrical twists into a single song than some artists do in their entire careers.
Spike is another installment in his career-long obsession with change, inserting weird brass arrangements (courtesy of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band) and traditional folk (played by members of the Chieftains) into his standard mix of brilliant pop, heart-wrenching ballads and lyrical savagery.
Co-produced by Costello, T-Bone Burnett and Kevin Killen, Spike blends the hard edge and intensity of his last album, Blood and Chocolate, with the melodic prettiness and folk feel of the one before that, King of America.
"Veronica" (co-written by Paul McCartney) is a pop gem: it sounds like a love song, but on closer inspection the lyric proves to be about an old lady who sits watching the days go by, lost inside her mind and daydreaming of her youth.
"Let Him Dangle" (a chilling song that takes a strong stand against capital punishment) and "Tramp The Dirt Down" (the most vicious song he's ever written, and one of the most political — it's about Margaret Thatcher, and ends with Elvis hoping he outlives her, so he can tramp the dirt down on her grave) are a little more direct, as is the stark ballad of betrayal, "Baby Plays Around."
And these are just a sampling of the album's charms: songs like "Any King's Shilling," "This Town" and "God's Comic" all measure up to his best work. Stunning.